The Business Improvement Network

Contracting for Success

By Anita J Lush | Colleague Director | HSBC Business Banking UK


This is the perfect time for one simple, yet highly effective management skill from your management skills tool kit to come to the fore - Contracting.

So what do I mean by this? Well, literally leading the way and seeking an agreement (contract) as to how you will work together. So often we say and think we will do this, and then time passes and it is much harder to back track. Do this as early as you can. It’s literally a firm handshake agreement for your future working together.

“Set out your stall” and agree “terms of engagement” and this should give you a much smoother, happier and effective relationship.

Too often we assume we know what our teams want & what motivates them. We convince ourselves we really know them well, however contracting removes any guess work. Of course for this to be successful each party has to be open and honest and have a little courage. Remember, your new line manager may not have been asked to do this before, so treat them gently.

So, go on “grasp that nettle” and help to shape your future.

A non-emotional way to “break the ice” is to identify a few areas and share preferences. Agree the areas and then score from your perspective and share your preferred approach and compare that with your new line manager. I suggest a simple scoring method to really capture each other’s preferences. Remember they are preferences, and just that, the answers aren’t right or wrong just guides to understand each other and work as effectively and productively as you can together.

Honesty is absolutely key and each of you will most likely feel a little exposed at first. In my experience it works best when you are both comfortable enough to challenge each other and “call out” situations and continuously improve and move forward. Humanity is key, take a risk, it will pay dividends.

Consider topics that work best for you both, independently Score 1-5 for how much you would like to receive/ naturally give your management style, with 5 being high.

Completing this in a table similar to the one below gives vital insight and you can then contract to ensure each of you are happy and not potentially clashing / causing frustrations. Being aware is key and you can then quickly form a strong and effective working relationship by feeling able to challenge & “call out.” This removes emotion and helps to approach some sensitive topics via a structured frame work avoiding any potential umbrage if something isn’t said exactly the right way but with best intentions.

The table shows suggestions and they will most likely be mainly appropriate, however, anything you agree can be included. I have sought to show how easy it is see where the fusutrstions are most likely to occur to allow you both to adapt or at the very least be aware.

Table for HSBC Blog

Contracting is also highly successful when you need to challenge and potentially “manage upwards” to agree/ restate your terms of engagement.

Of course this works well when you are the new line manager too and you seek to contract with your new line report. As we all know it is good to look through a lense from both sides.

Through contracting, agreeing a way forward, and sharing a preferred way to communicate you will ensure you are as effective as you can be, sharing these preferred styles/ approaches is key. Whilst they won’t change overnight each party will be aware and can flex accordingly.

I can’t recommend contracting highly enough, it works in so many situations and may not need to be a structured as outlined above, however at the very least contract on how you will work together. Go on take that leap of faith and give it a go.  

One final thought it also works well in personal relationships as an ethos although I wouldn’t recommend the table approach unless you are feeling very brave!


These are my personal views and thoughts.

Anita J Lush

Colleague Director HSBC Business Banking UK

About the author

Anita J Lush is a Colleague Director HSBC Business Banking UK

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